Near record-breaking summer rains have put some Georgia fall vegetables weeks behind schedule.
“We’re dealing with horrible conditions compared to last year as far as planting,” said Doug Schwalls, sales director for Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga.
“How that’s going to turn out in the end, who knows,” Schwalls said. “We may end up having a better season because of it.”
According to the weather station at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Ga., 66 inches of rain fell between Jan. 1 and Aug. 26 this year, compared to 36 inches in the same period last year.
“We usually get 50-60 inches of rain per year,” orchard manager Rob Kaser said, “so we’re well above normal.”
By Aug. 28, J.D. Poole, vice president and co-owner of Belle Glade, Fla.-based Scotlynn Sweet Pac Growers, said the rain had “definitely tapered off to a more manageable level.”
Poole said Scotlynn’s two Georgia growers expect to start harvesting 300-350 acres of corn in the Bainbridge area around Oct. 6. While supplies should be ample, he said volume is down by as much as 15% industrywide.
That’s a switch from the spring corn crop, he said, which was so bountiful that demand exceeded supply, leaving growers with lower-than-expected prices.
Despite the rain, most growers have been able to get their fall crops in the ground.
“We started planting squash this week, and we start cucumbers in three weeks,” Schwalls said Aug. 27. “But everything’s at least two to three weeks behind schedule.”
Calvert Cullen, president of Cheriton, Va.-based Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., said rain slowed planting for his four Georgia growers. “But for the most part we’re on schedule.”
Cullen planned to begin harvesting squash and cucumbers in mid-September, followed by beans, sweet and hot peppers and eggplant on Oct. 1, with cabbage in November.
“So far it’s been a good year,” he said. “North Carolina had one of the best years they’ve ever had, with decent yields and extremely high markets.
“We’re anticipating a good fall Georgia crop, with good quality,” he said. “We can’t wait to get started because the Michigan deal has been extremely rough.”
Adam Lytch, operations manager at Raleigh, N.C.-based L & M Companies Ltd., said his Georgia growers missed some of the heaviest summer rains, and the rain they did receive fell before planting or when the plants were young enough to have plenty of time to recover.
“We’ve been harvesting sweet potatoes since early August,” Lytch said. “We will start some squash the first few days of September.”
He said markets have been strong all summer due to supply shortages from unseasonably cool and rainy weather throughout the Midwest and Northeast.
Sweet potatoes are just getting started, sources said, and squash harvesting should begin the first week of September, followed by beans, peppers and eggplant the first week of October.